Writer’s Workshop: Geometry and Me

I never actually flunked a class. I had one incident in college, which I’ve already discussed here, where I came close, but I’m sure the professor took pity on me.

The other time I almost flunked was in high school with Geometry.

I transferred to a different high school in sophomore year. The summer before starting there, I took a bunch of placement tests, then met with the transfer counselor to register for school.

My new school had a level system, where level 4 was the top level (there was a 5 level for Advanced Placement classes) and level 1 was for those who had learning disabilites. Level 3 was for kids who were fairly bright but not smart enough for level 4. I had always been in the top classes, so I assumed that I would be placed in level 4 in everything. So, it was a shock to my ego when I learned that I would be placed in level 3 classes, and I was livid when the counselor told me that he was recommending that I be placed in level 3 Geometry. I was fantastic in Algebra, even mastering trigonometry and matrices and determinants when I took Algebra 2 as a freshman. Plus, I had heard all my life that I was some kind of a math genius and just assumed that I’d be placed in level 4. I argued my case with the guy, and finally he agreed to put me in level 4.

After a week or so of level 4 Geometry, I realized that the counselor was probably right, that I probably should have taken level 3, and I even thought that maybe I should slip back to level 2. But, I stayed with it, and was pulling a solid C by the end of the first semester. At the end of the semester, we were gien the option of continuing with level 4 or moving to a more advanced level 4. Not content to settle for level 4, I asked to be moved to the more advanced class, and the teacher (who was also the department head and with whom I had butted heads on more than one occasion) was more than happy to let me go.

That was a huge mistake.

I liked my new teacher a whole lot more, but the class moved at an even more accelerated pace and I was totally lost. By the time I got the hang of one topic, the class had already completed another topic and was two topics ahead. I was floundering. The teacher did her best to help me get through, even gave me a B on a test on which I probably deserved a C, but in the end, I ended up with a low D, barely above flunking. (Thank heaven for the gift B.)

I learned my lesson: I really should have gone with level 3…

25 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: Geometry and Me

  1. Gotta love how ambitious and motivated you were! I would have stuck with and expected level three for myself across the board.


  2. The very thought of Geometry makes me cringe, almost as much as Algebra did when I was in school.

    Then…there was Latin and the nun who stood over me, banging her ruler on my desk as I stumbled through the translation of this dead language. “Abyssus abyssum invocate” rang very true. My mistakes were endless.


    1. Latin is a language
      Dead as dead can be
      First it killed the Romans
      Now it’s killing me

      All are dead who spoke it.
      All are dead who wrote it.
      All are dead who learned it,
      Lucky dead, they’ve earned it.

      My stepffaher, incidentally, was once a Jesuit who taught Latin. His son is very good with it, because he had his father to teach him.

      I was really good in Algebra…


  3. That’s how it often goes with math classes – you don’t really realize you should be in the next level down (or further) until you’re drowning at the end of the semester. As a tutor, I often get optimistic students who just don’t know what they don’t know, y’know?


  4. Interesting concept about the different levels for different classes. We did not have that in Germany. Instead, we had different overall school levels.

    I hated math and struggled with it most of the time. Years later in grad school in the U.S. I encountered a good deal of math again. I did surprisingly well, though don’t ask me anything now! :-)


  5. I loved Algebra and when I started it, word problems from earlier grades suddenly became simple. I was and A-B student, never receiving anything lower. Until Geometry – my on C and once a D. Eeeek!


  6. You passed and that’s the main thing. Math and science were my toughies. In grade 11 I saw my math teacher and yelled out what I got and he yelled back ..55! I said “Thank you!” I was glad I passed. In Science, the teacher was so tough that he gave everyone 6 extra points so everyone could pass..I got 51! Thank God for bonus points.


  7. Just reading the name of your post gave me the jitters!
    I have the dubious distinction of being the only student in my high school requested by the teachers and principal to drop math and double up on English Lit. It was the only civilized thing to do for the physical and emotion health of all involved.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I agree it was extremely unconventional. I would get panic attacks and physically ill at the thought of attending math class. It was traumatic for everyone and I needed to be put out of my misery. Rather than taking me out back and shooting me, the teachers, principal and my parents all agreed to allowing me to drop math in 9th grade. I’ve managed just fine for this long with basic math skills; anything more involved than that, I’d ask my husband who is excels at math.

        Liked by 1 person

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